Grading Celtics-Nets deal for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
The Celtics and Nets agreed to swing a blockbuster deal on draft night that will go official once free agency opens in July. How did each side fare?
Boston Celtics — Grade: B
Outgoing: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry
Incoming: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries,
Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks, player(s) to be named later (UPDATE: MarShon Brooks is reportedly headed to Boston, while Evans is not part of the deal.)
There’s so much going on with this trade from Boston’s side. This is one of the tougher moves to evaluate in recent years because of all those external factors.
Quickly: It’s an excellent send-off to two valued players, Pierce and Garnett, who get to continue playing meaningful basketball at a point in their career where that’s all that matters. It’s a major symbolic shift in approach for a team that has hung on, and hung on, and hung on for two or three years longer than some expected. It’s a gut punch to fans so soon after Doc Rivers’ own emotional departure.
Touchy-feely issues aside, Danny Ainge made a bold play for pure assets in the form of the three first-round picks. The league’s rules preventing consecutive draft picks from getting traded is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the more picks over the next one-to-two years the better for the Celtics, who will likely be really, really bad next season. On the other, stretching out the time frame on the pick transfers opens up the possibility that Brooklyn bottoms out — or at least takes a step back — at some point, making the picks more valuable.
Boil this whole monster trade down and it essentially amounts to Boston’s paying the difference between Wallace’s future salary ($30 million) minus Terry’s future salary ($10 million) for the three first-round picks. That’s pretty expensive, even if we give Ainge some credit for getting Pierce out of town without buying him out or using the amnesty clause. That difference in cost prevents this deal from being a total home run, but Ainge can fix that if he can find a way to flip Humphries’ expiring deal or Wallace — who doesn’t make much sense on a bad, rebuilding roster — at some point (any point!) down the road.
The last key, hidden benefit to mention here is a counterintuitive one: This trade is an efficient way to make Boston really bad next season. Team executives talk all of the time about avoiding the treadmill of mediocrity, and that’s exactly where the Celtics were headed in 2013-14 if they brought back Pierce and Garnett and waited patiently on Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from knee surgery. Much like in 2007, when Boston won just 24 games before the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft, this is a good time to be bad. Encouraging Rondo to take his sweet time rehabbing will likely be enough to make a bottom-six record a reality. Should that happen, the Celtics would be in a prime spot to add a franchise-changing building block in what is expected to be a strong 2014 draft. And if they somehow land Andrew Wiggins? It would be worth paying Wallace three times what he’s set to make.
It’s worth noting that this is a “B” with a big TBD attached to it, pending the possibility of a future Wallace deal and/or striking gold in the 2014 lottery.
Keep reading for Brooklyn’s grade.